When you apply for trademark registration, you must identify the class of goods or services that your trademark covers.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) uses a list of trademark classes that lumps all goods and services into just 45 categories – 34 trademark product classes and 11 trademark service classes. At first glance, the class names can be confusing. Where do you draw the line between medical supplies (class 10) and medical services (class 44)? What’s the difference between textiles (class 24) and textile products (class 22)?
It’s important to choose the right class, because if you get it wrong, you may not be able to register a trademark. And if you do manage to register for the wrong class, you can’t change your registration later to name a different one, or to switch from a good to a service.
Here are some tips to help you choose the right trademark classes.
Use the trademark identification manual
The USPTO’s trademark identification manual includes a list of USPTO trademark classes. It also provides pre-approved descriptions of products or services that fall into each class. The manual is searchable online, so if you type in “jewelry,” for example, you’ll see all the possible goods and services categories for that term. You’ll find that most jewelry is in class 16, but toy jewelry is class 28, medical identification bracelets are in class 6 and a ring sizing and remounting is in class 37.
Is it a good or a service?
To choose the correct trademark class, you must decide whether your trademark applies to a good or a service. A good is a physical item that people purchase from you. A service is an activity that you perform for other people. Sometimes, it’s easy to tell the difference. Furniture, for example, is a good. Accounting is a service.
But other times, the line isn’t so clear. The Trademark Office uses the example of T-shirts. If you have a bunch of t-shirts and you sell them, you are providing a good. If people bring shirts to you and you custom print them, you are providing a printing service. If you sell t-shirts and also print designs on them, you may need to register trademarks for both a good and a service. And if you have a website or retail store where you sell t-shirts or other goods, you are providing a retail service.
Is your trademark for your whole company, or just one product or service?
You might have trademarks that apply to your business as a whole, such as your company name and logo. But you may also have particular product names, logos, labels, or other features that you also want to trademark. The classification for a particular product is not necessarily the same as the classification you would use for your business as a whole.
For example, if you have a company that develops gaming software, your company trademarks promote a software product (class 9). But suppose you want to trademark the name of a new type of product—an online, non-downloadable game. That particular item is a service that falls under class 41.
Choose a trademark classification
Trademark classifications can be confusing because you might use your company name or logo on a lot of things. There’s the product itself, but there’s also your website, your business cards, and the sign outside your office. What you need to remember is that your trademark class is based on the product or service itself, not on the way you use your trademark to market that product or service.
For example, if you sell cosmetics, you are in class 3, “cosmetics and cleaning substances.” You would not also register a trademark in class 16, “paper goods,” just because your name and logo are on product boxes and brochures.
In addition, your application should only list the goods or services on which you actually use, or intend to use, your trademark. If you use your logo on your t-shirt label, you should list t-shirts, but you shouldn’t also list dresses and pants just because they also fall in the clothing class unless you have plans to one day sell those items. A trademark attorney can help you plan which trademark classes will be the most beneficial for your business.
Choose a class that describes the finished product
Suppose you sell hand-knit sweaters. Your sweaters belong in class 25 for clothing, not in class 23 for yarns and threads. But if in addition to sweaters, you sell hand-dyed yarn, then you would need to register your yarn in class 23.
Choosing the wrong trademark classes can delay or derail your trademark registration. Take the time to understand how to trademark and carefully consider which class to use. And if you’re not sure, get advice from a trademark lawyer.